Master in Political Science: Global Environmental Governance


Program Description

Application deadline update

  • Non-EU/EEA students: 1 May (the original deadline of 1 April has been extended due to COVID-19)
  • EU/EEA students and students who do not need a study visa/residence permit through VU Amsterdam*: 1 June (the original deadline of 1 May has been extended due to COVID-19)

The enormous development of human civilization has left almost no species, countries or parts of the ocean untouched. Protecting the environment might be the largest challenge of our time. Politicians and policy makers have to cooperate with multinationals, organisations and scientists to confront international environmental problems such as the increase in CO2 emissions and climate change. This creates a growing demand for researchers who are knowledgeable about international environmental politics.

In the one-year full-time English-language Master’s programme Political Science: Global Environmental Governance you will concern yourself with the political aspects and implications of topics such as climate change, sustainability and nature. You will explore the field, familiarize yourself with current research and learn about the most important research traditions and approaches related to international environmental politics. The programme offers intensive coaching by means of tutorials and workshops, each taught by qualified and internationally acclaimed lecturers.

This programme is accredited by the NVAO. After finishing the programme you receive the internationally recognized degree of Master of Science (MSc).

Study programme

Our Political Science Master programme gives you a thorough, broad-based training in social and political science methodology and theory. This involves the application and practical use of a variety of political science research methods and getting acquainted with a range of theoretical perspectives and how to integrate these in your research. The Master’s is a one-year full-time programme, taught entirely in English. It has a workload of 60 credits.

Political Science: Global Environmental Governance courses in study guide.

Programme structure
The programme starts with a broad common base and gradually allows you to determine your own profile.

  • In Period 1 you follow two courses on basic theories and approaches in the two major sub disciplines of political science: comparative politics and international relations. These courses provide you with a common knowledge base and introduce you to the full breadth of the discipline
  • In Period 2 you choose two selected issues courses that cover different aspects of contemporary political processes. You can choose one selected issue belonging to your specialisation, and one to broaden your scope.
  • In Period 3 you follow a more general course on philosophy of science and research design that is to contribute directly to the preparation of your thesis work and provides you with both theoretical insights and methodological tools.
  • In Period 4 you practice your research skills in a workshop within your own specialisation. Working in small groups on specific topics, you practice all stages of the empirical cycle: choice and formulation of research question, literature review, research design, data analysis and report. The practical experience and the range of relevant and up-to-date research topics within your specialization that will be presented here allows you to use the work in the workshop as a stepping stone towards your Master's thesis.
  • In Period 5 and 6 you work individually on your Master's thesis, supervised by one of the staff members from our various research groups.

Career prospects

As a graduate of the Master’s programme in Political Science at VU Amsterdam, you are capable of working effectively in a multidisciplinary environment: you have a solid foundation in the approaches, issues and theories of the social sciences. You have developed skills in research methodology (analysis, data collection and processing), writing, presenting, public speaking, and teamwork.

Many graduates find work as a policy analyst or advisor within an international governmental or non-governmental organization, in the private sector, or as a civil servant in a government ministry. You will also be well qualified to work in the field of journalism. Graduates also find jobs in communication and external relations. The thorough application of research skills offered by the programme also prepares you for a further career in academia. Many of our graduates participate in reputable PhD programmes around the world.


Finding a position in an (international) organization can be difficult, especially in the current job market. During the programme, you will find out more about your own interests and how you can use them for an international career. After having completed the Master, highly motivated students can approach their professors for internship possibilities within the professors’ network. A research internship at our own department of Political Science is also an option. This work experience will help you further in your career.

Why study Political Science at VU Amsterdam?

Broad base, clear specialization
Our programme has a unique cumulative structure, in which you specialize further every month. From a common start in the two major sub-disciplines of the field (International Relations and Comparative Politics) you split up in smaller groups in the selected issue courses and gradually work towards your own specialization. This culminates in your individual Master thesis subject.

Intensive supervision, extra-curricular activities

The programme consist of highly interactive tutorials, workshops and intensive individual supervision. Given the relatively small scale of the programme (50-70 students divided over three specializations) you really get to know your professors, and they will know you. Extra-curricular research seminars, excursions and workshops provide you with an opportunity to also engage with politics and (political) organisations outside the classroom.

Strong research component
The programme encourages the employment of both quantitative and qualitative methods and offers you a broad scope in theoretical approaches, from the more traditional theories of the discipline to critical theory. Within the different courses special attention is paid to the combination of theoretical knowledge and skills (reasoning, writing, presenting and research techniques) and there is a great emphasis on developing argumentation to support your own findings. Finally, under supervision of a staff member with expertise in your specialisation you will conduct independent research for your Master thesis.
More information on the research topics of our Political Science department and staff members

International reputation
The programme is developed and taught by an internationally renowned team with an extensive international network. The quality of our teaching is evidenced by positive assessment results: in recent years our teachers have been voted the best in the Netherlands. The programme has an international character as at least 35% of the staff are international and approximately 50% of the students that start every year come from abroad.

Double degree
It is possible to obtain a double degree. Choosing this you will follow a 2-year programme during which you will spend one year at the VU and one year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more information see below: ‘Double degree European governance’.

What students say
Students of the Master Political Science at the VU have stated in the 2017 national student survey that they are satisfied with the challenging education, the Internationalization, the study facilities, timetables, study load and group size of the programme.

Admission with an international Bachelor’s degree

To gain admission to the Master's programme, you must hold a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, International Relations or a related discipline from an accredited research university (such as public administration, communication science, sociology, journalism, anthropology, etc.).

The Admission Board will review all courses in your BA. In some cases, you may be asked to demonstrate your abilities in an individual assignment if relevant core methodology courses are lacking from your previous degree, such as quantitative and qualitative methods.

You should demonstrate a strong working command of English by means of minimally one proof of academic writing that shows your ability to reflect, judge and reason in a well-structured and evidence-based manner. This proof of academic writing must include a clear research question, an explicit research methodology, a theoretical framework and academic literature references.

On the basis of the documents you submit, the Admission Board will make a merit-based selection of students applying the following criteria:

  • Academic record, based on GPA or an overall grade average, preferably 7 or higher.
  • Aptitude for social scientific theory and methods, as demonstrated by: thesis/proof of academic writing, results on individual courses, research skills and/or academic references.
  • Likelihood to benefit ('growth potential') from the international and academic environment of the MSc Political Science, based on the above and your CV.
How to apply
All candidates must hand in a request for admission, to be assessed by the Board of Admissions FSS.
To apply for the programme, you must register in Studielink. Once you have completed your registration in Studielink, you will receive log in details for VUnet. Please complete your application in VUnet by uploading the following required documents:
  1. Certified copy of your original Bachelor’s degree certificate. The certified degree must be in English or be translated into English by your university or a sworn translator. If you have yet to obtain your degree, you can ask the registrar of your university to provide an official statement to the effect that your are certain to graduate before 1 September.
  2. A transcript of the grades you obtained in your Bachelor’s programme. The certified transcript must be in English or be translated into English by your university or by a sworn translator. If you have followed or are following a master’s programme and/or more than one bachelor’s programme, please include transcripts of all these programmes.
  3. A clearly legible copy of the page(s) in your passport (or ID-card if you are an EU student) that contain(s) your personal data. A copy of a passport / ID card that is no longer valid will not be accepted
  4. A curriculum vitae (in English).
  5. Letter of motivation (no more than 2 pages in length) stating your reasons for applying to the programme.
  6. A Bachelor's or Master's thesis (in English). Or if you have not finished your thesis yet, a sample of an academic writing in English (about five pages in length). We will check your sample for plagiarism as one of the first steps of the evaluation procedure.
  7. A description of the relevant courses followed and literature used during your previous higher education. A list of the most relevant courses/modules that were part of your Bachelor's (and Master's, if applicable) programme, with a short description of the contents of these courses and the literature used (bibliography). You can either copy this from a study guide or type a 5-10 line description for each relevant course, if a study guide is not readily available. For the literature please mention the most relevant academic textbooks or articles used during your previous education. You can choose to use this example format or use your own.

Application fee
All students seeking admission to an international Bachelor’s or Master’s programme with an international degree are required to pay a non-refundable €100 application fee. Only after you have paid this fee will we be able to start the evaluation of your application file. If you are applying for more than one programme, you will only need to pay the application fee once. Your application fee payment is valid for two years.

English Language Requirements

To be admitted to the master’s programme all applicants must meet the following results in the English language test (no older than 2 years):

Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) C2 (proficient user), which means:
  • IELTS score with a minimum of 7.0.
  • TOEFL score paper based test: 600.
  • TOEFL score computer based test: 250.
  • TOEFL score internet based test: 100.
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): A.
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): A, B, C.
  • VU TOEFL-ITP: 600 (only valid for VU Amsterdam).
  • IELTS = test given by the British International English Language Testing Service.
  • TOEFL = American Test of English as a foreign Language.

Exemptions from the language test requirements are granted in the following cases:

  • If your bachelor's or master's diploma was obtained in an English-language university programme in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK or USA.
  • If your bachelor's or master's diploma was obtained in an English-taught programme at a Dutch university.
  • If your bachelor's or master's diploma was obtained in an English-taught programme in a different EU-country.

Please note that the options for taking this test are limited, especially during the summer holidays. Remember to upload the result of your test as soon as possible, but at latest June 1st (for non-EEA students) or August 31st (for EEA students).

Overview Political Science: Global Environmental Governance

  • Language of instruction: English
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Application deadline: 1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.
  • Start date: 1 September
  • Study type: Full-time
  • Specializations: Specialization of Politcal Science
  • Field of interest: Behavrioural and Social Sciences

Last updated Feb 2020

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to 23,00 ... Read More

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to 23,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff of 122 nationalities create a dynamic international academic community. The University distinguishes itself in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes: Human Health and Life Sciences, Science for Sustainability, Connected World and Governance for Society. Curious about student life at VU Amsterdam? Click here to ask our International Student Ambassadors. Read less